No Shelving Left: Demeking (2009) and Giants & Toys (1958)

Every once in a while, you have to take a chance. (I'd use the phrase "leap of faith," but that just gets you holy wars.) I get restless and impatient when I hear about a film and know that it is available on DVD (and sometimes has been out for a good while in that format), but cannot find it on Netflix. Actually, you can usually find it on Netflix, but it comes with one of those annoying green "Save" rectangles, the result of which is very little information as to when Netflix might be getting that title.

And so I hit Amazon. If that is a bust, then it becomes a search for the movie company's website or even eBay, though I cannot stand that site. But I can generally find that for which I am searching on Amazon.

Thus it went for two titles I came across about a week ago whilst flitting about the 'nets, both of of which were Japanese releases about which I had previously heard nada. This is not unusual. I am not a haunter of other film or DVD sites (except those which see fit to return the favor), and so new releases or film trends tend to only hit me in a glancing way. I am rushing past everything in my world these days -- where time has increasingly become a premium -- and so I only pick up on things in the periphery.

However, I am very good at following up if something even catches my interest slightly, and so it was that I ended up ordering, sight unseen, two Japanese films whose premises intrigued me enough to warrant a swift purchase from Amazon, once I surmised that Netflix was going to fail me utterly once again. Luckily, I was able to grab them for less than $30 total (always check the alternate new and used versions underneath the retail price area, where I always shoot for "new" if I can help it), and since I have Amazon Prime shipping set up, I already have them in my possession.

It's true. I will never truly grow up, and I will certainly never grow out of daikaiju films. For the uninitiated, that means Japanese giant monster movies. No matter what strides I have made in my overall taste for quality filmmaking, I still need to see some stunt guy mucking about in a rubber costume every once in while, knocking down cardboard buildings and making a general wreck of everything in sight. It's some form of therapy, I suppose, and it represents a large portion of my internal happy place. But while I revel in the simplicity of the form, I am always open to filmmakers attempting to take the basic kaiju formula and expounding upon it, bringing some new elements into the mix or attempting to take it to a more exalted level. Such was my delight, whatever demerits others might give them, in Cloverfield and The Host, two recent exercises in doing just what I described.

When I ran across the title Demeking the Sea Monster [Demekingu], I thought "Oh, it looks like just another kaiju film," which translates in Rik speak to "I've got to see this right away!" Even warnings that the titular monster only appears late into the film and only sparingly at that did not sway me. The premise was interesting enough -- a man in 1969 uncovers a prophecy relating to the attack of a creature from the stars which won't occur for another 50 years, and begins preparations to do battle with the creature -- and the few images I could find of the creature seemed fun enough to warrant spending 11 bucks (since Netflix was an epic fail in this department) on getting the Cinema Epoch DVD release via a seller on Amazon.

Having now watched the film, there was so much more to it than expected. There is a vibe not unlike Stand By Me (perhaps intentional, though still very different in execution) to the proceedings, and seems to make darkly satirical comments on the nature of "the hero's journey." I quite enjoyed the film, though yes, the comments about the length and attention actually paid to Demeking are accurate, though she has a pretty goofy but cool design to her. (I am guessing her since she lays eggs everywhere, but then you know how twitchy those space monsters that land on earth via asteroid can be sexually.) I am not regretting my purchase in the least, but it does make me wonder if there is a sequel in the works out there of which I am unaware. The story comes from a popular manga, and you know how long some of those things can be. That things are left relatively up in the air is pretty definitely laid out, so maybe there is potential for more?

The second film is a Japanese mass media satire from 1958 called Giants & Toys [Kyojin to gangu], directed by Yasuzo Masumura. I had honestly never heard of the film before last weekend, though I had seen two of Masumura's films previously, both of them far more sexually oriented in nature: the absolutely crazy, psychosexual horror epic, Blind Beast [Môjû] from 1969, and the middle segment of the Hanzo the Razor films, Razor 2: The Snare [Goyôkiba: Kamisori Hanzô jigoku zeme] from 1973.

I won't get around to watching Giants & Toys until this weekend, but the basic setup is that a trio of candy companies are doing battle over the selling of caramel, and one of them introduces a new "fugly" spokesperson for their candies. The tomboy with hideous teeth becomes an overnight sensation via some campaign which seems to involve spacesuits, ray guns and squirrels, but things apparently begin to go awry from there. The film is said to satirize just about everything in sight: business ethics, media culture, commercial advertising. Perhaps to push this point, the Fantoma DVD box not only goes so far as to compare it to Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, but also name-drops its director, Frank "Tish Tash" Tashlin (the former Warner Bros. cartoon director), as well as Billy Wilder and Dr. Strangelove.

Hard to say if any of this holds up with my eventual viewing, and I could be out 15 bucks if it ends sucking, but its certainly a lot more promising than waiting around for Netflix to start carrying the film. As I said, sometimes you have to take a chance. I blew $16 four weeks ago to watch what turned out to be a crappy, mostly-2D but supposedly 3D Wes Craven film in the theatre, so sometimes these chances backfire. But that whole "cracking eggs and omelet" thing holds up pretty well over time, so the only thing to do now is watch the movie and see.

[Editor's Note: When Giants & Toys was first looked up on Netflix over a week ago by yours truly, I did indeed get one of those annoying green Save boxes. However, it now has Add instead. I don't know if something occurred where it went down briefly and long enough for me to go hellfire crazy and order it, but I have found other reviews since where the writer had rented it via Netflix. So, no one's bad, but confusion all around. And by "all around," I mean just me...]


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